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China to Test Its First Lunar Probe
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China's first lunar satellite was entering its final phase of assembly and testing, space officials said Tuesday. They confirmed major progress had been made since the satellite project was given the go-ahead over two years ago.

Hao Xifan, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration Center of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, said work on the country's first lunar satellite project had been progressing smoothly.

The satellite, which is based on China's Dongfanghong III telecommunication satellite platform, boasts seven types of scientific exploration instruments including a CCD camera, a high-energy particle detector, a laser measuring gauge and a micro-wave detector.

The satellite project was approved by the Chinese government in 2004 with a budget of 1.4 billion yuan (around US$170 million).  

The Chinese space agency has said the satellite, which is expected to be launched next year, will obtain three-dimensional images of the lunar surface, analyze the content of relevant elements and materials, verify the depth of the lunar soil and study the space environment between earth and the moon.

The satellite project is part of the country's ambitious three-stage lunar program. The second stage involves landing an unmanned vehicle on the moon by 2010 and the third is the collection of lunar soil samples with an unmanned craft by 2020.

The space schedule is named the "Chang'e Program" which refers to a goddess who flew to the moon in an ancient Chinese fairytale.

Sun Laiyan, director of the China National Space Administration, said on Tuesday that the country's lunar exploration activities were designed to improve its independent innovative capabilities and further promote its scientific and technological capabilities for social development.

China has consistently advocated lunar and outer space exploration for peaceful purposes to benefit mankind, Sun told the 8th International Lunar Exploration Working Group Conference in Beijing.

Sun said other countries were welcome to cooperate in China's lunar exploration projects on the basis of mutual benefits and equality.

Space experts from the United States, the European Space Agency, Italy, Japan and India talked about their lunar probe programs at the three-day Beijing conference which got underway Tuesday.

(Xinhua News Agency July 26, 2006)


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